Raymond Pickersgill at the Riverhead Farmers Market on the opening day of its second season in November 2015. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Raymond Pickersgill, former Riverhead Business Improvement president, died this morning at Stony Brook University Hospital, where he had been hospitalized with coronavirus.

Pickersgill, with his wife Margaret and his daughter Lisa, was an owner of Robert James Salon on East Main Street since 2005.

“Ray almost single-handedly started the revitalization of downtown when he took over the BID,” former town supervisor Sean Walter said this morning. “We said to him, you have $300,000 — spend it to bring things to downtown that will bring people here and revitalize downtown,” Walter said.

“He grabbed the bull by the horns,” he said. “I credit him with turning downtown around. He worked so hard and put so much energy into it.”

Ten years ago this month, the BID Management Association board held its first meeting under Pickersgill’s leadership and developed plans for a series of downtown events — a roster that included a July 4th fireworks display and several riverfront concerts.

Under Pickersgill’s leadership, the BID initiated the cardboard boat races on the Peconic Riverfront, first launched in June 2010, Alive on 25, begun in the summer of 2016 and the Riverhead Farmers Market, which first opened in 2014.

Pickersgill also brought the popular classic car cruise nights to the riverfront in the summer of 2010.

Then there were other downtown events started during Pickersgill’s tenure, including an antique fair, which ran for several years on the riverfront and a Mardi Gras parade on Main Street.

Like the BID’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display and concert, these events have become staples of downtown entertainment and activity, bringing thousands of visitors to the downtown district.

“I wanted to put Riverhead on the map,” Pickersgill said in a 2014 interview.

“People had a bad impression of downtown Riverhead. When people come here they are pleasantly surprised,” he said.

Steven Shauger, general manager of the Hyatt Place East End on Main Street and Pickersgill’s successor as BID president, the mark Pickersgill made on Downtown Riverhead are here to stay.

“Once I joined the BID, I was astonished after witnessing the sheer amount of dedication and care Ray had for our downtown,” Shauger said.

“The personal sacrifices he made for the betterment of Downtown Riverhead were endless. Each and every time I step foot downtown, I see different improvements and projects that Ray played a role in. He was an amazing person and didn’t hesitate to step up as a major advocate of our revitalization.”

Shauger said “even after stepping down and passing me the torch, he was always there to give advice or lend an ear.”

Pickersgill also served on the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Committee, where he worked to distribute grant monies to downtowns throughout the county.

“Riverhead owes Ray a debt of gratitude for what he did for downtown revitalization,” Walter said.

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